Discursive hauntings: limits to reinvention for Zimbabwean farm workers after fast-track land reform


Scholars of Zimbabwe’s agrarian milieu since the “fast-track land-reform” in 2000 are increasingly suggesting that the label “farm worker” is no longer a relevant or accurate term for referring to former workers now living in resettlement areas. While many former workers still live in their old farm compound accommodation, they survive through a range of livelihood strategies rather than formal employment in commercial agriculture. Yet the term “farm worker” has proved difficult to shake off. Its enduring power and popular understandings of what it means to be a Zimbabwean farm worker, coupled with individual histories and identities as farm workers, have ensured that unbecoming a farm worker has not been as simple as ceasing to be employed as an agricultural labourer. In this paper, I explore the various dynamics of unbecoming a farm worker in this context, showing that such unbecoming is a complex, fraught, contradictory and dynamic process, influenced by many social, political, economic and personal factors.

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